Gotham Knights, WB Games Montreal’s game set in a brand new Batman game universe, came with a nicely explanatory gameplay trailer – but we still had a lot of questions after the reveal.
Thankfully, I got to speak to creative director Patrick Redding and senior producer Fleur Marty, who answered many of the questions we were left asking after the reveal – from how the open world works, to whether you can play co-op with two of the same characters, to how gear and costumes will work. And much, much more. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Will combat feel like the Arkham games? Is this a familiar beat ’em up combat system?
Patrick Redding: “We have gone through and iterated on control schemes quite a bit over the course of the whole project, but it’ll be comfortable to people who are familiar with third-person brawler type experiences.
“The way you’re accessing some of your special moves and things like that can vary I’m sure, but in terms of having both attack and defensive choices, having a range of combo choices, having variations in strike types and attack types, being able to combo in your ranged attacks as well as your melee attacks – all of that is there, and I think will be comfortable for people who have played modern, contemporary third-person action-adventure style brawlers.”
Are special abilities tied to the ‘stamina’ bar in the bottom-left corner?
Patrick Redding: “It kills me how fast people pick up on these things. I shouldn’t be that surprised. Yeah, you have special abilities in your ability tree that you’ll unlock, and you can choose to unlock it in different ways, as well as how you use your gear. And some of that will tie into that bar that we’ll be talking about in the future.”
Fleur Marty: “There’s a bit of a strategic approach to it.”
Is this a fully open world? Will areas be blocked off or level-gated?
Patrick Redding: “It is one open world city, right from the start. And no, there’s no level gating whatsoever.”
What do enemy levels mean to the player, then?
Patrick Redding: “It’s true that, as you are getting more powerful in your progression, you’re gonna see a sliding scale in terms of not just the level of the enemies, but even some of the types of enemies that you’re going to be coming up against. But it’s not a grind, it’s not a situation where you’ll say, ‘Oh, God, I have to go grind this type of mission in order to level up to this, and then I can get this.’
“It’s really that, when you encounter open-world crime activities (and other activities that involve the AI), you’re going to see a range, right? You might see guys that are a little bit weaker than you, and guys that are a little bit stronger than you. And how you approach each of those situations, it presents you with some choices that you’re going to have to make. Like, ‘Is this a situation where I’m going to maybe swap out a piece of equipment, because I think I’m going to handle it better that way.? Do I want to take a more stealthy approach?’ All of those are options that are available to the player and, and the level of your enemy is just one factor in deciding that.”
Patrick Redding: “Between the ability tree for Red Hood (which is very unique), and his gear spec, and the way you can modify and upgrade both his ranged weapons, his melee weapons, and his suit – absolutely. In fact that range [between character builds] remains actually quite robust throughout the entire game.”.
How do character skins work? Are they made up of individual pieces of armour, or full outfits?
Fleur Marty: “They’re a mix of all that.”
Patrick Redding: “So, just to be clear, when we talk about Gear, we’re talking about your melee weapon, your ranged weapon, and your suit, which has certain armor characteristics.
And then there’s your suit style – that’s the sort of ‘skinning’ of the suit. Because we didn’t want it to turn into just a random crazy quilt, what we’ve done is we’ve got distinct suit looks. And then within that there’s accessory variation that the player can tap into, and that way you get a chance to tweak it and make it exactly the way you like it.”
What does co-op offer above single player? Can two players play co-op with the same character?
Patrick Redding: “Because the characters are so distinct from each other, there’s a bit of asymmetry, a bit of the complimentary skill set and ability set that actually makes teaming up kind of awesome if you happen to have different characters.
“Now, if you happen to have two Batgirls, you can also do that. Obviously, the potential of having different Batgirl builds, and how they look different and play differently is really cool too.”
Fleur Marty: “This is very much not designed as a game-as-service. There is an ability tree, which is different for each of the characters, and then there’s gear that you craft – and so choices that you’re going to be making – but that does not mean that this is a game-as-service.
So Gotham Knights is a single, self-contained story?
Fleur Marty: “Yes, absolutely. That you can also completely experience in solo if you want to, you’re not going to miss out on anything. If you’re playing single player, you can be offline if you want to. We think that teaming up and living that dynamic duo fantasy can be also a really great experience for players, but we won’t force it on them.”
Why is it 2 player co-op maximum?
Patrick Redding: “You can have four-player brawler experiences, [but] I think the more you try to lean into that, the more you end up having to create environments that only really work for that.”
“And if you look at the fantasy of the Batman family and when these heroes get together, it is often weirdly kind of a drop in drop out scenario. They’ll, they’ll be running, rolling their solo crime fighting efforts, and then they’ll cross paths and it’ll turn out they’re after the same guy. And, you know, they kind of joined forces and they take that on and then go their separate ways or decide to team up some more that’s all possible in the current dynamic.
“Focusing more on the idea of the immediate team-up of two allowed us to say, ‘OK, we can build a world that works perfectly well for either solo play or pairing off.'”
Can I play as one Knight all the way through?
Patrick Redding: “Yup! You could go back to the Belfry and say, ‘Oh, I’ve just unlocked the next major piece of the mystery. And I need to go deal with this thing.’ And you can decide that this is the perfect opportunity for me to swap out and play somebody else, so we allow you to dip in and out of those characters.
“But we know most players will typically gravitate towards that one hero that really reflects their style. But I think it’s always possible for people to kind of sit there and incrementally play everybody if they want it.”
The gameplay trailer mentions that the player’s halfway through the Mr. Freeze storyline – are there multiple villain questlines to follow at one time?
Fleur Marty: “That’s probably more details than we’re supposed to do at this stage… but yeah, that’s a clue that we put in there. Yeah. You got it right.”
What’s the timescale of the game? Is there a day-night cycle?
Fleur Marty: “It’s actually over many nights. So yes, we do kind of have a day night cycle, but the daytime is when you spend your time in the Belfry. The Belfry is super-central to our game because it’s your base of operations. You get to go back there, analyze all the clues that you’ve picked up during your previous night, have a little chat with Alfred, craft your gear, and really prepare yourself for the next night of crime fighting. So yeah, daytime is Belfr, and then at night you’re roaming the streets, fighting criminals and unraveling the mystery.”
Will the Knights be out of their disguises in the Belfry?
Fleur Marty: “You kind of got a hint of that in our trailer, actually.”
Patrick Redding: “It was important to us, the Belfry. I mean, obviously it has a huge role to play in how the player manages their characters and their progression and all that – but it is also a narrative space. It’s a place where the characters are allowed to be seen and have facial expressions and talk to each other. So it serves a dual purpose, and it’s a really effective way of using that space.”
Was this always a non-Arkham game?
Patrick Redding: “Yes, 100%. That was something we arrived at early on. We want this to be the start of something, not just the continuation or the prolonging of something. It was always intended as a new franchise set within DC’s Batman universe, obviously. Once we had that as, not a blank slate, but a clearer possibility space, then we started arriving at some of these other ideas that allowed us to kind of move in a very different direction and, you know, take the step of… killing Batman.”
Is Gotham Knight’s story based on existing comics?
Patrick Redding: “Honestly, we could probably publish a reading list and post it to our website and it would be an excellent way for people to get themselves more fully immersed in it but, to be clear, it’s an original story. It’s very much our interpretation of several aspects of the Batman lore and the Gotham City history, and we kind of synthesize them in a way that holds together as a very much a unified storyline.”
Could more stories be told in the Gotham Knights universe, then?
Patrick Redding: “Yes. But I won’t say more than that.”
Fleur Marty: “[Gotham Knights] is all about growth. There’s room for growth.